"In 1964, construction of a second junior high, Valley View Junior High, began. The school got its name from the fact that it sat on top of a hill and overlooked a valley. Construction was slowed during the early phases because several unmarked graves were found on the site and needed to be moved and re-buried. However, the school opened on time in September 1964."
That Wikipedia entry for Edina Public School raised all sorts of questions for former student Tom Berg. "An unmarked cemetery? I have always wondered who the graves were related to- settlers or Dakota/native Americans? How old were the bodies/were they modern graves? Where were they reburied? What cemetery - with no names? ****Where on the school campus grounds were they originally found?***** ANYONE KNOW THE STORY/HISTORY?" he asked fellow followers of the "You know you're from Edina when..." Facebook page.
We can answer most of those questions. And by "we," I mean Frank Cardarelle, second-generation Edina surveyor and member of our board. He's my go-to guy to answer any property-related questions, and sure enough, he knew what happened because he was there surveying the property at the time.
"I was out staking the property and Danens (Excavation) was out grading when we hear from the neighbor that children were buried there. So everything stopped," Cardarelle remembered.
This sounds pretty sinister, but in fact, many pioneer landowners had small family cemeteries on their property, with graves often marked by a simple pile of stones or homemade wooden cross. Local cemeteries weren't established in the 1880s or were too far away for easy transport of the bodies. And unfortunately, children accounted for a high number of deaths in this time period.
Remember that this was an age before childhood vaccinations. Diseases practically eliminated by 2000 -- diphtheria, and pertussis, measles -- killed thousands of children each year before 1900. Death was much more commonplace among the young in 1900: 165 deaths per 1,000 births in 1900 compared to 7 per 1,000 in 1997. (Source: PBS The First Measured Century)
The land that became Valley View Junior High belonged to Ernie Davis, whose ancestors owned the land as far back as 1898. Cardarelle remembers that the bodies were pioneer children, and that the grave sites were on the western edge of the property near Valley View Road. Construction halted while authorities located and moved the graves. Cardarelle doesn't know where they were moved.
Someone with time to research could look through the spring of 1964 newspapers from Minneapolis or Edina to see if a news article provides more details. That decade is not digitized, so research requires hours of sitting and reading microfiche. If you're up for the task, contact me!
While these graves were located and moved, many old cemeteries get bulldozed or lost during development or even when old farms get new owners. (See MPR story "Pioneer cemeteries fall under plow's threat.")
Do you have a "history mystery" and want some answers? Comment here or email me with your question. I probably won't know the answer off the top of my head, but I have thousands of documents and photos and interesting people like Frank Cardarelle to consult.
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